Sunday, March 31, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Corvette Summer (1978) **

PG, 105 min.
Director: Matthew Robbins
Writers: Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins
Starring: Mark Hamill, Annie Potts, Eugene Roche, Kim Milford

I know it’s a little early to be going over summer movies, but I saw this forgotten flick from my youth on TCM, and I just couldn’t help watching it. I didn’t really remember a thing about it except that I remembered being disappointed with it as a kid. That could’ve been for any number of reasons. The only reason this movie was on anyone’s radar was that it was a starring vehicle for Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. I’m sure I was disappointed that he didn’t just cut down the guys who stole his Corvette with a light saber.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation / *½ (PG-13)

Roadblock: Dwayne Johnson
Duke: Channing Tatum
Lady Jaye: Adrianne Palicki
Flint: D.J. Cotrona
President: Jonathan Pryce
Storm Shadow: Byung-hun Lee
Firefly: Ray Stevenson
Snake Eyes: Ray Park
Jinx: Elodie Yung
Blind Master: RZA
General Joe Colton: Bruce Willis

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Jon M. Chu. Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick. Based on characters from the Hasbro toy line. Running time: 110 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of combat violence and martial arts action throughout, and for brief sensuality and language).

“It’s like the screenwriters said, ‘Let’s make movie about people blowing things up.’ Awesome!” —Jude Wells upon seeing “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”.

“My eyes feel like they’ve been violated.” —His father upon the same event.

A week ago I wrote about the Dwayne Johnson movie “Snitch”. I claimed it wasn’t a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movie because it was a serious take on its subject matter and didn’t entail the silly exaggerations and mindless violence that are implied by a moniker like The Rock. Now, comes “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, which is most certainly a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movie. It’s also a Channing “The Bod” Tatum movie, and an Adrianne “The Rack” Palicki movie, and a Byung-hun “The Shirtless” Lee movie, and a Bruce “The Smirk” Willis movie. It is all of the things these ridiculous nicknames that I made up imply and less, and yet somehow it is ten times better than the first live action G.I. Joe movie. However, that one set the bar so low that ten times better is hardly enough to make this one worth the price of admission.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Moonrise Kingdom (2012) ****

PG-13, 94 min.
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Lucas Hedges, Charlie Kilgore, Andreas Sheikh, Chandler Frantz, Rob Campbell, L.J. Foley, Gabriel Rush, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Tommy Nelson, Larry Pine

I often get drunk, find an axe, and head out to the woods to find a tree to chop down.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) ****

NR, 172 min.
Director: William Wyler
Writers: Robert E. Sherwood, MacKinlay Kantor (novel)
Starring: Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael

“The Best Years of Our Lives” is one of those films you hear about when you’re transitioning from casual movie watcher to cineaste. It’s one of the must see classics. It won awards. It’s about something important. It’s unique.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Forbidden Planet (1956) ***

NR, 98 min.
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Writers: Cyril Hume, Irving Block, Allen Adler, William Shakespeare (play “The Tempest”)
Starring: Leslie Neilsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, Robby the Robot

“Forbidden Planet” is more than a sci-fi classic; it also borrows its story from Shakespeare’s final play, “The Tempest”. It is one of the most often attempted plays by dramatic outfits and one of the most often failed. I think I’ve seen more productions of “The Tempest” than any of his other plays, very few have been good. It isn’t the material either. It’s good stuff, but it’s challenging and dense with Shakespeare’s signatures, which can often throw modern histrionics off.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Archer, season 3 (2011-2012) ***

TV-MA, 13 20-min. episodes
Creator: Adam Reed
Directors: Adam Reed
Writers: Adam Reed, Tesha Kondrat, Chris Provenzano,
Voices: H. Jon Benjamin, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, Adam Reed, Lucky Yates
Guest voices: David Cross, Patrick Warburton, Dave Willis, James Hong, George Coe, Burt Reynolds, Joaquim de Almeida, Dave Fennoy, Robb Wells, Neal Holman, Heaven MacPherson, George Takei, Luciano Palermi, Lloyd Sherr, Paula Malcomson, Jack McBrayer, Michael Rooker, Peter Newman, Ji Li, Ona Grauer, Bryan Cranston, Brett Butler, Maggie Wheeler

If the adult cartoon comedy spy series “Archer” is anything, it’s consistent. Its lead character is consistently misogynistic, stupefying, and offensive. It’s other characters are consistently weird, perverse, and offensive. Its stories are consistently violent and offensive. And it’s consistently funny.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958) *½

NR, 65 min.
Director: Nathan Juran
Writer: Mark Hanna
Starring: Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers, Roy Gordon, George Douglas, Ken Terrell, Otto Waldis, Eileene Stevens, Michael Ross, Frank Chase

“Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” is a B-movie classic, and it’s about as good as most B-movie classics are, which isn’t a shining endorsement of its quality. It takes the notion of many an Atomic Age movie of an alien presence invading (after passing over some Far Eastern regions) and creating a monster mutation upon an iconically American community. In this case the attacked is a rich wife of a philandering weasel.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Snitch / ***½ (PG-13)

John Matthews: Dwayne Johnson
Daniel James: Jon Bernthal
Agent Cooper: Barry Pepper
Joanne Keeghan: Susan Sarandon
Malik: Michael K. Williams
Jason Collins: Rafi Gavron
Sylvie Collins: Melina Kanakaredes
Analisa: Nadine Velazquez
Juan Carlos ‘El Topo’ Pintera: Benjamin Bratt

Summit Entertainment presents a film directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Written by Justin Haythe and Waugh. Running time: 112 min. Rated PG-13 (for drug content and sequences of violence).

America’s supposed War on Drugs is one that it seems we’ve fought ever since I was a kid in the early 80s. I suppose it really started earlier than that, however. The way it has been fought has been criticized just as long. Tens of thousands of citizens are arrested in this war every year, yet the problem persists, often with escalating violence and diminishing effects. The problem is that it is a war against human nature and ambitious ideas. I’m not sure warring against such things can ever result in victory.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Deception, season 1 (2013) **½

TV-14, 11 43-min. episodes
Creator: Liz Heldens

Directors: Peter Horton, Jonas Pate, Dan Lerner, Andrew Bernstein, Michael Schultz, Tate Donovan, Gloria Muzio

Writers: Liz Heldens, Peter Elkoff, Alexandra Cunningham, Jordan Hawley, Kath Lingenfelter, Brent Fletcher, Monica Macer, Jessica Goldberg, Kevin J. Hynes

Starring: Meagan Good, Laz Alonso, Tate Donovan, Wes Brown, Katherine LaNasa, Ella Rae Peck, Marin Hinkle, Victor Garber

Guest starring: John Larroquette, Tom Lipinski, Michael Drayer, David A. Gregory, David Gelles, Anna Wood, Paloma Guzmán, Bree Williamson, Scott Bryce, Christina Jackson, Sterling Jerins, Lily Pilblad, John Pyper-Ferguson, Geoffrey Cantor, Steven Weisz, Ken Leung, Micah Stock, Makenzie Leigh, Connor Buckley, Brian Donahue, S. Epatha Merkerson

I like NBC. I know that’s not a popular sentiment these days. The network has fallen far since the days of “Must See TV.” I like the risks they take. Their shows are rarely hugely popular, but they tend to be original. Look at “30 Rock” or “Community”. Those are shows that nobody else would’ve been willing to put out there before a public that tends to stick with what they know. Even when they jump on a bandwagon, like the recent trend of the supernatural in regular programming, they come up with a fairly original take on it, ala “Grimm”.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Holy Motors (2012) ***½

NR, 115 min.
Director/Writer: Leos Carax
Starring: Denis Levant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, Elise Lhomeau, Jeanne Disson, Michel Piccoli

If you’ve heard anything about Leos Carax’s movie “Holy Motors” than you know that you will either love it or hate it. There seems to be no in-between on this one. If you are not a fan of the avant garde, then chances are you’ll fall on the hate it side of this coin. I am not a fan of the avant garde for the sake of avant garde alone. I don’t like my art to be weird just for the sake of being weird. I don’t even necessarily like weird art with a purpose just because it has a purpose. I like things that speak to me, and on its ultra weird level “Holy Motors” spoke to me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Cheyenne Autumn (1964) **

NR, 154 min.
Director: John Ford
Writers: James R. Webb, Mari Sandoz (book)
Starring: Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo, Delores Del Rio, Ricardo Montalban, Gilbert Roland, Arthur Kennedy, Patrick Wayne, Elizabeth Allen, John Carradine, Victor Jory, Mike Mazurki, George O’Brien, Sean McClory, Judson Pratt, Carmen D’Antonio, Ken Curtis, James Stewart, Edward G. Robinson

My father was a huge fan of westerns. He was also a Marine. When I was born he had some pretty interesting ideas for what my name should be. My mother would never have seriously considered his choices, nor should she have. My father knew that, and maybe that’s why he really put himself out their with them. I’m glad he didn’t name me, but I’m also glad he eventually revealed his choices.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Fat Kids Rule the World (2012) **½

R, 94 min.
Director: Matthew Lillard
Writers: Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman, K.L. Going (novel)
Starring: Jacob Wysocki, Matt O’Leary, Billy Campbell, Dylan Arnold, Lili Simmons, Tyler Trerise

“Fat Kids Rule the World” is an interesting look at the teenage mindset, if not entirely original. It involves an obese high school kid who is suicidal after gaining a great deal of weight upon the death of his mother. He fantasizes about killing himself and other things. One day when he finally gets up the gumption to step in front of a city bus on a steep San Francisco hill, he finds himself saved by a scattered junkie who has delusions about starting a band together.  Suddenly the fat kid has a friend in the junkie and a purpose in trying to keep the junkie from inadvertently killing himself. It’s a unique set up to a not so unique story.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, season 2 (2012) ***

TV-MA, 6 22-min. episodes
Creator: David Cross
Director: Ben Gregor
Writers: David Cross, Shaun Pye, Mark Chappell
Starring: David Cross, Sharon Horgan, Will Arnett, Blake Harrison
Guest starring: Jon Hamm, Russ Tamblyn, Sara Pascoe, Peter Serafinowicz, Colin Salmon, Catherine Shepherd, Justin Edwards, Juliet Cowan, Graham Duff, Steve Davis, Ben Gregor, William Hoyland, Mark Heap, Amber Tamblyn, Spike Jonze

The first season of David Cross’s farce “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” played like a car crash. Everything Cross’s moronic Margaret did was a disaster. He was offensive, stupid, crass, bigoted, prejudiced, ignorant, and just plain wrong. Parts of his behavior were difficult to watch. His actions and words were often quease-inducing, and yet you just had to watch to see what terrible thing he would do next. The show barreled along, stacking every poor decision on top of the last until you couldn’t believe he could do anything worse. Then it ended. It was off the air for quite a while.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) ***½

NR, 119 min.
Director: Otto Preminger
Writers: Walter Newman, Lewis Meltzer, Nelson Algren (novel)
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin, Robert Strauss, John Conte, Doro Merande

“The Man with the Golden Arm” is often cited as Frank Sinatra’s best acting, and one of his best films. It was a passion project for the crooner turned actor. Watching it, I couldn’t help thinking about Justin Timberlake. I can’t think of another artist whose trajectory is more like Sinatra’s. Like Sinatra, Timberlake made his name in pop music, I’m sure Sinatra got much more credit for his voice in his rise to stardom than Timberlake, although after going solo, Timberlake proved himself a master of the medium that brought him his fame. Again like Sinatra, Timberlake wasn’t satisfied being identified with just one artistic discipline. Both moved into acting starting with the roles people would accept them in and building to award worthy performances. Like Sinatra, Timberlake hasn’t forgotten where his fame came from and hasn’t abandoned any of the roads that took him to where he finds himself today.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dark Skies/ *** (PG-13)

Lacy Barrett: Keri Russell
Daniel Barrett: Josh Hamilton
Jesse Barrett: Dakota Goyo
Sam Barrett: Kadan Rockett
Edwin Pollard: J.K. Simmons
Kevin Ratner: L.J. Benet
Shelly Jessup: Annie Thurman

Dimension Films presents a film written and directed by Scott Stewart. Running time: 97 min. Rated PG-13 (for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content, and language – all involving teens).

There are two basic kinds of horror movies these days. One is designed to shock the audience with gore and loud noises and human aberrations that have little to do with the fears we actually all share. The other kind of horror movie is more classic. It wants to tell a story. It wants us to relate to the characters upon which its horrors are being enacted. It shows us an aspect of life we can all relate to before it takes us down its supernatural path. That’s the kind of movie that “Dark Skies” aspires to be.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Man With the Iron Fists (2012) *

UR, extended cut 107 min.
Director: RZA
Writers: RZA, Eli Roth
Starring: RZA, Russell Crowe, Rick Yune, Lucy Liu, Dave Bautista, Jamie Chung, Byron Mann, Chung Le, Daniel Wu, Zhu Zhu, Gordon Liu, Kuan Tai Chen, Xue Jing Yao, Telly Liu, MC Jin, Grace Huang, Andrew Li, Pam Grier

“I’m bad meaning bad, but I’m bad meaning good.”
—lyrics from the song “The Baddest Man Alive” by RZA and The Black Keys from “The Man With the Iron Fists”.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Robot & Frank (2012) ***

PG-13, 89 min.
Director: Jake Schreier
Writer: Christopher D. Ford
Starring: Frank Langella, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler, Jeremy Strong, Jeremy Sisto, Ana Gasteyer
Voice: Peter Sarsgaard

There are actors who I think wait for something different to come across their desks. Their agents probably get frustrated with them, because they could each make more money if they would take smaller parts in bigger movies. These agents don’t get their clients. “Why would you want to do more work for less money?” they wonder. The actors who are in “Robot & Frank” give their agents ulcers.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Day of the Dolphin (1973) **½

PG, 104 min.
Director: Mike Nichols
Writers: Buck Henry, Robert Merle (novel)
Starring: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino, Fritz Weaver

“The Day of the Dolphin” is a film with a somewhat silly premise handled with utter seriousness and sincerity by a director/writer team most well known for satire. This science fiction, not-quite thriller takes its premise from the notion that dolphins are just as intelligent, if not more so, as man. It follows a scientist whose research is centered on the communication skills of dolphins. He has secretly trained one of his dolphins to speak English.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) ***

PG, 95 min.
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Writers: Tab Murphy, Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale, Joss Whedon, Bryce Zabel, Jackie Zabel, David Reynolds
Voices: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Claudia Christian, Don Novello, Jacqueline Obradors, Corey Burton, Phil Morris, John Mahoney, Florence Stanley, David Ogden Stiers, Jim Varney, Leonard Nimoy

Ever since Disney wrote a deal with Netflix, I’ve been using my children as an excuse to revisit Disney animation. “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” was the last Disney film to be released before I had children. It was also one of my earliest movie reviews. I didn’t bother to see it when it was in theaters, but I used my five month old as an excuse to rent it. Like he even cared at that age, but hey, I had a kid. That meant I had to watch kids movies. Right?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Louie, season 2 (2011) ****

TV-MA, 14 21-min. episodes
Creator: Louis C.K.
Director: Louis C.K.
Writers: Louis C.K., Pamela Adlon
Starring: Louis C.K.
Guest Starring: Rusty Schwimmer, Hadley Delany, Ursula Parker, Roderick Hill, Maria Dizzia, Kelly McCrann, Liza Colon-Zayas, Pamela Adlon, Peter Benson, Donna Hanover, Todd Barry, Joan Rivers, Jack O’Connell, Eunice Anderson, Dane Cook, Bob Saget, Edward Gelbinovich, Heidi Armbruster, Jim Norton, Greg Gutfeld, Liz Holtan, Angela Gould, Doug Stanhope, Chris Gethard, Nick Kocher, Patrick O’Neill, Gregg Rogell, Veanne Cox, Grant Shaud, Will Janowitz, Kevin Nagel, Ali Ahn, Amir Blumenfeld, Joe DeRosa, Ali Reza, Keni Thomas, Don Pugsley, Lilly Robbins, Todd Glass, Gideon Adlon, Lisa Emery, Nick DiPaolo, Godfrey, F. Murray Abraham, Chris Rock, Jenn Lyon, Steven Wright

After waiting 2 and a half years to return to “Louie” after its impressive first season, my initial thoughts about the comedy/drama half hour television show from stand up comedian Louis C.K. have been vindicated by its seconds season. This is definitely the best show on television.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful / ***½ (PG)

Oz: James Franco
Annie/Glinda: Michelle Williams
Theodora: Mila Kunis
Evanora: Rachel Weisz
Frank/Finley: Zach Braff
Girl in Wheelchair/China Girl: Joey King
Master Tinker: Bill Cobb
Knuck: Tony Cox

Walt Disney Pictures presents a film directed by Sam Raimi. Written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Based on the “Oz” series of novels by L. Frank Baum. Running time: 130 min. Rated PG (for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language).  

I imagine that many an average moviegoer often feels they’ve seen an entirely different movie than the critics. Critics will frequently decry audience pleasers, complaining about dramatic and directorial technicalities that matter little to someone just going to the movies for a good time. Often critics allow their biases against certain formats, such as 3D, to distract them from the movie at hand. Often these critics will make good points about the storytelling that are lost on the untrained eye. I remember when I was just a fan of movies and not a critic. It was always disheartening to feel that the supposed “experts” looked too hard into something from which I’d found great enjoyment. I imagine this must be the case with the new movie “Oz the Great and Powerful”.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Let There Be Light (1946) ***

NR, 58 min.
Director: John Huston
Narrator: Walter Huston

“Let There Be Light” is a remarkable documentary commissioned by the Department of Defense after World War II and then suppressed by the Pentagon until the early 80s. It depicts the War Departments efforts to help returning soldiers deal with the psychological trauma of war. Director John Huston was given unprecedented access to military facilities and real treatment sessions between doctors and soldiers. Nothing is staged.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Master (2012) ***

R, 144 min.
Director/Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers, Rami Malek, Jesse Plemons, Kevin J. O’Connor, Christopher Evan Welch

I can’t believe that people are still questioning whether Joaquin Phoenix is “acting” in his new role as an unhinged WWII Naval boat veteran in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest movie “The Master”. He was acting in the mockumentary “I’m Still Here” about a fictionalized version of himself quitting acting to start a new career as a hip-hop artist. He’s certainly acting in this movie, and it is some of the finest acting of his career.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—My Favorite Year (1982) ***

PG, 92 min.
Director: Richard Benjamin
Writers: Norman Steinberg, Dennis Palumbo
Starring: Mark Linn-Baker, Peter O’Toole, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Bill Macy, Lainie Kazan, Anne De Salvo, Basil Hoffman, Lou Jacobi, Adolph Green, Tony DiBenedetto, George Wyner, Selma Diamond

When I was a kid—long before I had developed my infatuation with cinema—“My Favorite Year” played a for a little while on HBO in one of their endless loops of movies that played over and over. I loved it. I watched this movie just about every time I could catch it. I didn’t know who Peter O’Toole was. I didn’t know anything about those variety television programs of television’s golden era. I hadn’t seen any of the swashbuckling movies that O’Toole’s character was supposed to have been a star of. I didn’t know that 30 Rock was a real place. I didn’t know there was any cultural difference between Jewish people and WASPs like myself, and I certainly didn’t drink. But, for some reason I loved this movie.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Fog of War (2003) ****

PG-13, 95 min.
Director: Errol Morris
Featuring: Robert S. McNamara

A few nights ago my wife asked me for some ideas of films based on historical U.S. fact from World War II to the present day. It was a tough request. There are a great many films that deal with U.S. politics at different points in that era. Vietnam and the Nixon administration are the basis of many different ones. Unfortunately that was a pretty broad period of time, and I had trouble settling on where to start. Finally, I remembered this Oscar-winning documentary from Errol Morris, the master of the documentary interview.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) ****

NR, 81 min.
Director: John Sturges
Writers: Millard Kaufman, Don McGuire (adaptation), Howard Breslin (story)
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Russell Collins, Walter Sande

“Bad Day at Black Rock” is a lesson in minimalist cinematic storytelling. From its plot to its dialogue to its motivations to its sparse desolate landscape, there doesn’t seem to be much going on here. Through that minimalism we get a detailed study in human nature that is far superior to any heavily plotted, emotional rollercoaster ride out there.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—October Sky (1999) ***½

PG, 108 min.
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Lewis Colick, Homer Hickam Jr. (book)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Chris Owen, William Lee Scott, Chad Lindberg, Natalie Canderday, Scott Miles, Randy Stripling, Chris Ellis, Elya Baskin, Courtney Fendley, Kaili Hollister

“October Sky” is the moving story of Homer Hickam Jr., who grew up in a small West Virginia mining town, and against all odds escaped the life of the mines to become a NASA engineer and trainer. The movie is based on his memoir “Rocket Boys”, which tells of how he and three other boys earned education scholarships at the National Science Fair with their experiments with small rocket engineering.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Hit & Run (2012) **½

R, 100 min.
Directors: Dax Shepard, David Palmer
Writer: Dax Shepard
Starring: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Rosenbaum, Jess Rowland, Joy Bryant, Ryan Hansen, Carly Hatter, David Koechner, Beau Bridges, Sean Hayes

Actor, writer, director Dax Shepard has said that his main inspiration for his directorial debut “Hit & Run” were films that featured classic car chases, like “Smokey and the Bandit”. He said that he liked that movie’s combination of cars and comedy. “Hit & Run” obviously comes from the heart. You can see Shepard’s passion for the material, and it isn’t bad. It just isn’t good enough to fully recommend.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer / ** (PG-13)

Jack: Nicholas Hoult
Isabelle: Eleanor Tomlinson
Elmont: Ewan McGreggor
Roderick: Stanley Tucci
Crawe: Eddie Marsan
Wicke: Ewen Bremner
King Brahmwell: Ian McShane
General Entin: Ralph Brown
General Fallon: Bill Nighy
Fumm: Ben Daniels

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Bryan Singer. Written by Darren Lemke and Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney and David Dobkin. Running time: 114 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images, and brief language).

Ever since Pixar opened the eyes of American audiences to the fact that cartoons don’t have to be just for kids there has been a trend in American filmmaking to combine the tales and fantasies that entranced us as children with more adult filmmaking sensibilities. Those fruits have come to ripen in recent years, but not all of them are as tasty as others. “Jack the Giant Slayer” is the most recent of those efforts, retelling the story of “Jack and the Beanstock” in an adult context. The problem is we don’t believe in giants anymore and growing a magical beanstock to a forgotten land above the land isn’t the best way to convince us.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Pennies From Heaven (1981) **

R, 108 min.
Director: Herbert Ross
Writer: Dennis Potter
Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Jessica Harper, Vernal Bagneris, John McMartin, John Karlen, Jay Garner, Eliska Krupka, Christopher Walken

“Pennies Fro Heaven” is a film that I often see written about with respectful tones, but it did not receive the respect or the box office upon its release. This is for good reason. It was a bold experiment of making a depression era musical with recordings from that era. It isn’t one of those happy go lucky MGM musicals, but one that reflects the time in which it takes place. Placing a then zany comedian like Steve Martin in the lead role and the unknown to Hollywood Bernadette Peters as his co-star was also a risky move for such an endeavor. Director Herbert Ross was the only known commodity of the bunch, coming off a string of successful dramadies, like “The Goodbye Girl” and “The Sunshine Boys”.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) ***

PG, 104 min.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Gary K. Wolf (novel)
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Stubby Kaye, Alan Tilvern
Voices: Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Lou Hirsch, Mae Questel, Mel Blanc, Tony Anselmo, Mary T. Radford, Joe Alaskey, David Lander, June Foray, Russi Taylor, Richard Williams, Wayne Allwine, Tony Pope, Frank Sinatra

I was never as taken with “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” as many others seemed to be. I always felt it was loud and messy. It is, but I’m not so sure that’s a flaw anymore. I don’t think the zaniness of cartoons like Looney Tunes are necessarily successful because of those traits, however. Robert Zemeckis seemed to think that was the essence of cartoons in his 1988 live action/cartoon hybrid.